Most of the time when Joe Wade goes hiking, he carries a stick. But it’s not just any stick. It’s etched with highlights of his life: jobs, children, accolades.
Shellac preserves this stick of memories. His wife Claudette has one too. They can use the sticks often now, as they and their church — Central Christian on Moon Road — recently completed and dedicated a prayer trail at the back of their property.
It was two years in the making.
“We tried to maximize the land and minimize the inclines,” Joe Wade said.
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The trail measures 5/8 of a mile. At the location traditionally used as the starting point, laminated papers containing scripture are encased in an information box. If your intent is to pray and meditate along the walk, 15 stations allow you to stop and do so. Concrete benches are set at intervals for this purpose.
The scripture verses are changed monthly. The most recent verses are from the Psalms — with their obvious connection to nature, notably the 23rd Psalm.
Susan Wolford walks the trail three days a week. The director of the Central Christian preschool, Wolford drives her own children to school then hikes before her workday starts. “It’s usually just me and the spiders,” joked Wolford. “Sometimes I’ll see a mama deer and her baby deer.”
Once you’re in the woods, it’s easy to forget the busy suburban roads surrounding the church. At times you can hear the cars zooming past on Moon Road; but then once you’re farther along the trail, the noises fade into whispers. Fallen leaves and twigs, and breezes blowing through the trees, allow you to put cares behind. Two foot-bridges take you over a stream bed. Three chimes are interspersed throughout, hanging from branches.
At one spot on the trail, a cairn has been set up off the trail by various hikers. Though not planned for the project initially, rocks have been piled up spontaneously by walkers, who see the cairn as a place to lay down their cares.
The trail, reportedly the only one of its type in the area, seems to simplify.
Steeped in a Christian tradition of honoring and being good stewards of the creation, the church’s effort would find support from a range of theologians including St. Francis of Assisi, a Catholic cleric of the 13th century; and the contemporary writer and farmer Wendell Berry of Kentucky. Berry is a Baptist.
“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope,” Berry, a farmer, has said.
“We want to provide a space for people to come and get away. There’s not enough quiet in the world,” said the Rev. Tom Stephenson, the senior pastor of Central Christian (Disciples of Christ). The church sits on 7½ acres, and the back part of the trail and property abut Calvary Baptist’s. Founded in 1909, Central Christian’s original location was Wynnton Road. The church relocated to north Columbus in 1995.
Stephenson said the trail was part of his congregation’s long-range plans etched out in 1996. Down the road, the church wants to put in an open-air chapel in the woods.
Anyone in the community can hike the trail, whether or not you have fancy sticks like the Woods.’ Pets are welcome. The only hardand-fast rule is that no one use it at night, for safety reasons. “We want people to utilize it, for their recreation with God,” Stephenson said, “and for refreshment and renewal.”